When I pulled out of my driveway in Oklahoma and headed out for a new job in New York, it was my relationship with my nieces and nephews that I worried about the most. You see, I always wanted to be that aunt. The one who took you to movies. The one who invited you to spend the night — or the week. The one who thought you were perfect at 3, at 13 and even at 30. That aunt.
I decided early on that I wouldn’t let distance make me distant. So, here are 42 ways you can stay close, too.
For an older child, I sent books from the “Chronicles of Narnia” and then called to discuss them. For a newborn niece in another state, I created the Aunt Marketta Monthly Book Club. Each month a new book arrived for her library.
We’ve been known to read books on Skype, but I also recommend reading a book and uploading it to YouTube so your loved one can hear you reading anytime.
And for those of you who are grandmothers, try “My Grandma & Me,” which is a 68-page, newly released devotional book by Crystal Bowman. It’s designed to be shared not just with the grandchildren on your lap but for your grandchildren everywhere.
“Today’s Christian parents have a tougher job than I did,” Bowman told me, adding that Grandma and Grandpa and aunts and uncles need to reinforce values and spiritual lessons. “Children need to hear Biblical truths from more than just parents.”
Fun things to send through the mail
(I like to keep padded envelopes on-hand. That way I can get everything ready at home and then just run it in to the post office.)
- Books. (Always check Ollie’s Bargain Outlet. I buy children’s books there for $2.29… and sometimes less!)
- Pictures from your town
- A toy from your childhood
- A toddler’s wallet that you make yourself. Learn more here.
- A card with your hand traced on it. Maybe add the book “The Kissing Hand” by Audrey Penn.
- A page from a coloring book that you have colored. A page for your friend to color.
- Homemade cookies or a treat that’s unique to your location
- Gift card to McDonald’s
- Photo album of your family
- A bookmark. Here’s how to make one from the pages of a comic book.
- I-spy bottles that are easy-peasy to make
- Photo album that shows a day in your life. (My best friend sent my boys a book she made about harvesting wheat, and they love it.)
- Candy kisses or hugs
- Paper banners for holidays, like this garland made of hearts
- Crayons — or better yet — crayons that are upcycled into fun shapes. Here’s how.
- Temporary tattoos
- Trading cards
- Video messages sent via cell phone or burned to DVD
- A file folder game for the pre-school crowd. You can customize your own (maybe a game where you match the name to the picture of the cousin) or download one of these super cute ones.
- Matchbox cars
- A series of cards or maybe pumpkin cut-outs that start with “I’m thankful for you because…”
- Finger puppets. (They are $1 at Michael’s or make your own bunny hand puppet using this tutorial. Perfect for Easter!)
- ABC book based on scriptures. Download. Print. Cut. Assemble. Enjoy.
- Magnet from your state
- CD of favorite songs
- Christmas ornament. Maybe buy two — one for you and one for your loved one.
- Calendar with handwritten notes, scriptures and jokes on it
- Lunchbox notes, slipped in with help from Mom or Dad
- Postcards when you travel
- Regular letters, sent in crazy cute envelopes you make yourself
- Tickets to a local museum or zoo
- Your favorite comic strip from the newspaper
- Deck of puzzle cards or flash cards
- Erasers in fun shapes
- Origami creatures
- Small notebooks or customized ones like these with their favorite characters
- Trace your head and arms to send a hug
- Jokes from places like Paging Supermom
- Craft supplies
- Shrinky Dink jewelry
- Puzzles. You can make your own with craft sticks.
P.S. Visit GiversLog.com for the happiest mail you’ve ever seen!
UPDATE: This has become one of my most popular posts, so I thought I would make it easy for you to download and print the list — and include some letter-writing tips and a cool zoo-themed printable to get you started on making a pocket letter for your loved one. Hope you enjoy it!